Trip time! Discover the jungle, seaside, and temples in Sandakan.

The Sabah region’s largest center is the historic town of Sandakan, located on the northern coast of Borneo. The town is surrounded by natural beauty and an abundance of wildlife, and is considered the gateway to Sabah’s ecotourism region. Beyond the ecotourism, Sandakan is an important historical site. The Japanese occupied the town for much of World War II. The area was used to host a number of Prisoner of War camps, and the Sandakan Airport was built by forced labor. Today, a war cemetery and memorial park mark the events.

Tour operators are abundant in Sandakan, and ecotourism is by far the biggest draw card to the region. Elephants, monkeys, crocodiles and rhinoceros call the area home, and the dramatic shifts in landscape produce one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world. Within a few miles you’ll see swamps, limestone cave systems and three types of forest. See endangered species of ape and monkey at the Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary and Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary. The largest mammals mingle with the smallest birds on the banks of the Kinabatangan River, a short drive from the town. Dive the Semporna Islands, known as one of the best dive sites in the world, just off the Sabah coast.

Life underwater is even more abundant than it is above in Sandakan, and many of the local dishes revolve around seafood. Sample freshly caught shellfish, or try dried, salted fish from the local markets.

Sandakan enjoys a tropical rainforest climate, with temperatures averaging 87 degrees Fahrenheit (31 degrees Celsius) year round. The wet season brings monsoons that often cause the Kinabatangan River to flood during December and January. Between April and October visitors can expect a mostly dry experience with the added bonus of the new season of flora in the region.

Sandakan can be reached by plane from Kuala Lumpur or by bus from southern Borneo. Once in town you’ll have no problem walking between your hotel, restaurants and local attractions, while a bus system will take you further afield. Taxis are readily available and cars can be hired from within the town.

Known for

Jungles, Rain Forests and Forests

Top Hotels in Sandakan

Estimated price for 1 night / 2 adults
Image for Four Points by Sheraton Sandakan
Four Points by Sheraton Sandakan
4 out of 5
Lot 106 & 107 Blk Hs 11, Sandakan Harbour Square, Sandakan, Sabah
$49
per night
Oct 6 - Oct 7
4.4/5Wonderful! (787 reviews)

"Nice clean room with good sea view and good room service"…"

Reviewed on Aug 4, 2019

Four Points by Sheraton Sandakan
Image for Livingston Hotel
Livingston Hotel
3.5 out of 5
Jalan Utara, Mile 4, Sandakan, Sabah
$37
per night
Oct 2 - Oct 3
3.6/5Good! (57 reviews)

"Nice to stay"…"

Reviewed on Sep 18, 2019

Livingston Hotel
Image for Sabah Hotel Sandakan
Sabah Hotel Sandakan
4 out of 5
Km 1 Jalan Utara, Sandakan, Sabah
$34
per night
Oct 2 - Oct 3
4.1/5Very Good! (204 reviews)

"Clean and safe"…"

Reviewed on Sep 2, 2019

Sabah Hotel Sandakan

Popular things to do in Sandakan

Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary
Image for Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary

Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary

5/5 (12 Ratings)

Watch as a community of orphaned orangutans play in the trees above you at this sanctuary.

Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary
Image for Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary

Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary

4.5/5 (6 Ratings)

Two daily feeding sessions draw crowds of tourists to watch monkeys as they swing through their natural habitat.

Top activities in Sandakan

Sepilok Orang Utan & Sandakan City Tour
Image for Sepilok Orang Utan & Sandakan City Tour

Sepilok Orang Utan & Sandakan City Tour

$82

Visit endangered orangutans up close in their natural habitat and discover the rehabilitation work accomplished at Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre. Then visit the city of Sandakan’s main attractions, including serene temples, lively markets, and water villages.

Private Sandakan Tour & Orangutan Sanctuary with Lunch
Image for Private Sandakan Tour & Orangutan Sanctuary with Lunch

Private Sandakan Tour & Orangutan Sanctuary with Lunch

$137

Set off for Sandakan for a full day of adventure exploring the second-largest city in the state. Tour the impressive orangutan sanctuary for an up-close encounter with the fascinating animal and make stop at other points of interest at the market, observation point, and a water village.

Sepilok Orang Utan & Labuk Bay Adventure
Image for Sepilok Orang Utan & Labuk Bay Adventure

Sepilok Orang Utan & Labuk Bay Adventure

$134

Interact with nature in this full day tour of the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre, where orangutans are given a second chance at survival and the Labuk Bay mangrove forest, to observe the elusive Proboscis monkeys in their natural habitat.

Gomantong Cave & Sukau River Adventure
Image for Gomantong Cave & Sukau River Adventure

Gomantong Cave & Sukau River Adventure

$150

Enjoy the scenic countryside dotted with villages on the way to Gomantong Caves, located within the Gomantong Forest Reserve. Venture into Sabah's largest bird's-nest cave before heading to Sukau Kinabatangan River for a leisurely cruise and wildlife observation of proboscis monkeys and pygmy elephants.

DAY TOUR TO SEPILOK ORANG UTAN REHABILITATION CENTRE
Image for DAY TOUR TO SEPILOK ORANG UTAN REHABILITATION CENTRE

DAY TOUR TO SEPILOK ORANG UTAN REHABILITATION CENTRE

$107

At 0800hrs, you will be meet and pick-up on arrival at the Sandakan airport or hotel. Embark your air-conditioned transport and enjoy your ride to the world famous Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre where situated in the Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve.

Sepilok Orang Utan & Sandakan City Tour
Image for Sepilok Orang Utan & Sandakan City Tour

Sepilok Orang Utan & Sandakan City Tour

$215

Visit endangered orangutans up close in their natural habitat and discover the rehabilitation work accomplished at Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre. Then visit the city of Sandakan’s main attractions, including serene temples, lively markets, and museums.